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The American Treasure Tour Museum is every collector’s dream and the perfect spot for lovers of kitsch, curiosity, and history. This Costco-sized space is so big that you need a tram to traverse its 100,000 square feet packed with thousands of distinctive items ranging from Chuck E. Cheese animatronics to cars that predate Ford’s Model T.
Just a stone’s throw from both King of Prussia and the historic grounds of Valley Forge, the museum occupies a former B.F. Goodrich tire factory in Oaks. One of the most interesting places to visit in Montgomery County, the items here are a pop culture smorgasbord covering the mid-1800s through today, and the collection is always growing.
Who owns all these unique objects, signs, and life-sized characters? Well, that’s a secret. Or, at least, sort of. Someone on our tour happened to know the person who has been amassing this massive trove of interesting things for over 60 years, but we weren’t quick enough to hear the name they mentioned. So, we remained in the dark while enjoying the fruits of their labor.
The museum tour begins with a self-guided portion while you wait for the formal guided tram tour.
The first stop is the Music Room, which holds a wide assortment of nickelodeons, Wurlitzer harps, and electric pianos, organs, and other instruments. There are also quite a few music boxes, including one accompanied by the statue of an organ grinder and his pet monkey that dates from 1895.
Among the unique instruments, there is a group of intricate miniatures, dollhouses and dolls dressed in their finest. Some of the dolls are even perched on top of the pianos and music players in a quirky display that will give you a good idea of the eclectic collection that is in store on the rest of the tour.
The next room starts the heart of the American Treasure Tour exhibits, and only part of it is open for visiting on your own. Several rows of antique cars include examples dating back to the early days of the automobile as well at 1950s Thunderbirds plus Cadillacs, Corvettes, and others. Lovers of classic cars will want to spend time here.
Near the cars, there are life-sized cartoon characters—including Peter Pan and Captain Hook—stuffed animals, and even a Martian or two. It’s a fascinating glimpse into this massive assortment of memorabilia that includes just about everything you can imagine.
The narrated tram tour is a 40-minute trip through the Toy Box, a dizzying and fascinating display of hundred of thousands of collectables, which is only a portion of everything the owner has. There are Sesame Street characters, Muppets, neon signs, and advertisements of all kinds. At every stop, the tram driver provides history about the collection with background about the items and how they became part of the tour.
Some of the most notable items include record breakers like the world’s longest Slinky (the regular-sized version was invented by a Penn State alum and was first sold in Philadelphia). You’ll also see the world’s largest Gumby and the world’s largest Popsicle stick structure—a castle made from 400,000 sticks.
Other notable items include the Wurlitzer Band Organs, which will make you nostalgic for a good carousel ride, and the colorful circus sideshow art.
If you’re a lover of Christmas in Philadelphia, you may get a little nostalgic at the sight of the Enchanted Colonial Village, a Christmas display that was once a mainstay of the holidays at Center City department store Lit Bros. In the 1960s and ’70s, seeing the village was as much a part of the season as the Wanamaker organ and light show is today.
The figurines and miniature buildings were so beloved by their 500,000+ annual visitors that they moved to the Philadelphia History Museum, Longwood Gardens, and the Please Touch Museum after the store closed. Now, they have a permanent, year-round home here.
The remarkable thing about the American Treasure Tour memorabilia is that it’s all beautifully restored and cared for. From the porcelain dolls to the Pep Boys and Simpsons figures to the Wurlitzers that play their happy tunes just as they did a century ago. There is a little bit of everything, and it’s all worth seeing.
The museum is open Friday through Sunday from 10:00am through 3:30pm. Tours leave 30 minutes after the hour from 10:30am through 2:30pm. Reservations are not required, but they are encouraged as the tours can sell out. For advanced tickets, visit their website.